Becoming A Travel Blogger Helped Me Cope With My Brother’s Death

Jen Morilla
October 1, 2019

Jen Morilla, also known as The Social Girl Traveler, has recently joined the team at Under30Experiences.

Below is her inspiring story on how she became a travel blogger and why she left her former life behind. Let us know what you think, and if it resonates with you, share it with those you think would be inspired.

Becoming A Travel Blogger Helped Me Cope With My Brother’s Death

People often ask “why did I leave it all behind, what was the real reason?”

I quit a perfectly good job and salary, sold my car, took my savings and just left. I didn’t have a plan. In fact, the only plan I had was my flight time to Europe. Since then, I’ve traveled through Europe, South America, South East Asia, and now I’m living in Australia, where I continue to travel. When I got here, I didn’t have a job, friends, or a place to live.

To answer the whole “why did you leave home, what or who was behind it” question, let me make this clear: No ex broke my heart, I did NOT find a sugar daddy, and nope, I do not come from a rich family. It was none of these reasons. It was simply because I’ve learned to live a life that isn’t in vain. 

In September 2010, I lost my brother to gun-violence. He was only nineteen.

My brother and me. August 2010

I’m not going to tell you how it happened—just that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I am this strong person because I’ve had to deal with the shittiest part of life when I lost my brother. I’ve just had to learn to deal with the pieces by tragedy. My brother was my best friend. And because of someone else’s ignorance towards the use of a gun, he is no longer here today.

But I am here. Which means that I’m the one who has to learn to cope with change, to deal with the unexpected, and to live on borrowed time. I’ve learned to live my life. To take something that destroyed me and turn it into something that builds me.

I’ve learned to live my life. To take something that destroyed me and turn it into something that builds me.

That terrible day in September 2010 changed everything.

My life turned upside down. I watched my family suffer, and there was nothing I could do for them. I was in too much pain. I can honestly say that I was at rock bottom. I kept wondering, “what is the point of it all?” I had lost the taste for and the meaning of life.

How are you supposed to live like this? I felt numb to everything that was happening around me. 

It took me a long time, but I finally got to a point where I had had enough. My brother was gone. But I was still here. Time to accept it. I call this moment my ‘last cry.’

But the truth is: I’d give it all to have him back.

In April of 2015, I walked half of El Camino De Santiago, which is a religious pilgrimage from the South of France to the North of Spain. Some walk it for religious purposes, some for health, and others just because. For two weeks straight I walked alone. It tested every physical part of me: muscles, endurance, injuries, aches and pains. But more than anything it was a test of mental strength. On days where I didn’t think I could walk any longer, I somehow kept going. Looking back now, I can’t tell you why I started the walk, but I knew I had to do it.

It happened the day before I reached my final destination of the El Camino de Santiago: Santiago de Compostela. After climbing the last peak along the trail and I arrived on the mountaintop, I just started crying. Literally stood there in tears, alone, balling like a baby. 

I kept thinking about the past few years – what my family and I had been through; how much I missed hugging my brother (that’s it—just having him hug me) – it all came to a head. I felt it. I actually felt myself realize that this was MY LIFE. This was it. Good or bad, I was still here for a reason.

Finished El Camino de SantiagoSpain 2015

That moment on the mountaintop was a new beginning. 

It was a journey of learning to separate what matters from what does not. It’s a continual journey for me to see the life that is in front of me.

Being in control of our lives gives us a sense of security, so unexpected events are amongst the most powerful disruptions to life. Most of our greatest fears are things we can’t control.

They’re scary because we can’t prevent them. An illness or an accident can change our lives, regardless of whether we’re the victim or not.

As a travel blogger, I am always changing. Leaving the old for the new. Leaving behind the comforts of home – over and over again – just so I can visit other countries and live a new experience.

This was MY LIFE. This was it. Good or bad, I was still here for a reason.

Sh*t happens. That’s normal. It’s all about appreciating certain moments and times in our lives. Continually being so far away from home, I definitely appreciate the time that I do get to spend with my family and friends. If this journey has taught me one thing, it’s to understand that there are things in this life we truly have no control over.

Coming to terms with those types of changes is much harder. But it sure makes moving to another country or traveling the world an easier task.

I’ve done what I’ve done because I live in the now. The now mindset is when you understand that you truly need to live in the moment. Learning to appreciate the moments and time that you have.

Now is the only moment you have control of. Be thankful. It’s simple; I do what makes me happy because life should be nothing short of that.

My brother used to say to me, “Jen, you worry too much. Chill out.” He was right, of course.

Before my brother’s death, I had this whole idea of what life would be like for me after graduating from university. I had it all planned.

My brother and I on my 21st birthday. February 2010.

This past year while traveling, the taste for and meaning of life has slowly crept back. The key is to overcome these unexpected tragedies by allowing them to point us to the right direction — and by making sure that what happened wasn’t in vain, but that it continues to inspire us to make our own lives count. 

Look, I wish I didn’t have to lose my brother to learn this lesson. But I am proud of my brother and what he taught me. I am just proud that I can finally say that I am living my life. 

They say if you can change one person’s life for the better, you’ve lived a good life. My brother changed mine. He’s given me my adrenaline for life. He’s also given me the appreciation and understanding for what I love to do: live life, travel, and inspire others.

If you haven’t started LIVING your life yet, get on it. It’s your only one

Skydiving in Wollongong, Australia (for the first time)May 2016.

This article was published first at Elite Daily & then Huffington Post.

Jen Morilla
Jen is a travel blogger and founder of, The Social Girl Traveler. She quit her New York City corporate job in February of 2015 for a budget and backpack and hasn’t looked back since. She aims to travel with a purpose and inspire people to do the same! Jen travels with clean water filters in backpack. She’s been to 33 countries on 6 continents and isn’t stopping anytime soon!

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